JGSLA 2010: What you will find!

Don’t bother getting vaccinated for the genealogy bug – it won’t help! Just be prepared for an amazing genealogy immersion experience this year.

From gold-rush pioneers to goniffs, from geo-tagging to gazetteers, and many other exciting topics, JGSLA 2010 has gathered experts, archivists, professors and authors from around the world to share their knowledge of a diverse range of fascinating topics with you and your fellow conference attendees.

These experts will bring genealogy – and possibly your personal genealogy – to life and present a new world of possibilities.

Regardless of whether you identify as a mind-mapper, Google geek, PC-pusher, Mac-Maven, Litvak, Galitzianer or “somewhere in Russia,” JGSLA 2010 is for you!

In fact, you don’t even need to be Jewish or researching your Jewish heritage – many programs provide general information, no matter what you are personally researching.

You’ll never know whom you’ll connect with at lunch, having a cup of coffee or taking a workshop. A long lost cousin? Descendants of your ancestral village? Someone investigating your family?

Will this be the year you find someone to share your research, to collaborate with others, to design a website for your research interests? Will a new resource or database provide that all-important clue enabling a major breakthrough?

You won’t know unless you come to this year’s conference!

A few tidbits:

— Ancestry will provide classes and a free (by-appointment) digital scanning service for attendees.

— JewishGen’s Warren Blatt and Michael Tobias will present “JewishGen LIVE at L.A. LIVE” on their latest databases and search capabilities.

— Steve Morse, a household genealogy name, will present a series on his website’s resources, but his new program, presented with daughter Megan, will be “DNA and the Animal Kingdom: Evolution and Genealogy in the Natural World.”

Stay tuned for news on workshops, special interest groups, birds-of-a-feather groups, films, breakfasts and tours. Everything you need to know is at JGSLA 2010.

WDYTYA: Library feedback and more

Our friend at Ancestry, society partnership manager Suzanne Russo Adams sent Tracing the Tribe some feedback received from libraries and how the Who Do You Think You Are? series is helping them.

Midwest Genealogy Center (Independence, Missouri):

We have seen an increase in foot traffic in our center. We usually don’t start our busy time of year this early. We have had lots of first-time patrons and are handing out many beginning genealogy materials. The television show is hitting people at an emotional level and they, too, want to find out about their ancestry. Our staff has spent many one-on-one hours with these ancestor hunters and has found it to be a rewarding experience.

Denver Public Library (Denver, Colorado):

Denver Public Library has seen a lot of foot traffic in the past few weeks. With the airing of “Who Do You Think You Are?”…our use statistics have spiked. Not only are many of our “regulars” excited by the program but there are many fresh faces coming in full of expectations.

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (Ohio):

We had a meeting Tuesday night, and one member presented an idea about the “Who Do You Think You Are?” series…. An officer of the Seneca County (OH) Genealogical Society thought we could find 3 – 5 “celebrities” of our county and ask them if they would like us to dig into their genealogy…. After we get permission…[we] will do some research and track down what we can on each individual. Then we would have them come to a meeting of the Society and present our findings to them. We have already discussed this with the local newspaper feature writer and she was interested.

Tracing the Tribe thought this idea was particularly useful, and could be utilized by societies around the world. Ask a local celebrity to participate and get a lot of local publicity!

Suzanne also noted a change in the episode schedule. Here’s the new schedule:

April 2 – Brooke Shields
April 9 – Sarah Jessica Parker (Repeat)
April 16 – No episode
April 23 – Susan Sarandon
April 30 – Spike Lee

Here’s some info on this week’s episode with Brooke Shields:

Brooke Shields’ episode is the most royal of the series, taking viewers to New Jersey, Rome, and Paris. In the episode, Brooke seeks to learn more about her father’s aristocratic roots and to learn the origins of the “Torlonia” family name. Watch for Brooke’s visit to the New Jersey State Archives in Newark and the New York Historical Society.

Check out the teaser featuring Brooke Shields, and tune into NBC for the full episode on Friday at 8/7c.

Last Week’s Episode – Matthew Broderick

In last week’s episode, award-winning actor and performer Matthew Broderick set out to learn more about his father’s side of the family. Matthew begins his journey by visiting battlefield grounds of north-eastern France, where he finds out his grandfather served as a medic in World War I. Matthew is surprised to learn that through his grandfather’s heroic military sacrifice, he was awarded the Purple Heart and recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross. But Matthew’s military roots don’t stop there. On a trip to Connecticut, Matthew discovers his great-great-grandfather served in the Civil War and fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. The last leg of Matthew’s journey leads him to Marietta, Georgia, where he visits his great-great-grandfather’s grave site and also solves a 150-year-old mystery.

If you missed the episode, watch it here. [CAVEAT: The link doesn’t work if your computer is located outside the permitted geographic area of the US and its territories. See Tracing the Tribe’s earlier post explaining the limitations. Tracing the Tribe wonders if those in the permitted area can download it to a CD and send out the CD? Is there some sort of tech coding that would prevent such a CD from playing on an “internationally located” computer? Anyone up for the challenge?]

Suzanne also sent along more on Matthew Broderick’s episode and how the team of genealogists discovered his military heritage. Here’s some insider information:

Go-to resources: U.S. military records, U.S. Federal Census

How they helped

Matthew Broderick knew little about “Joe the postman” – his grandfather – at the start of this family history journey. But a conversation with his own sister provided Matthew with a valuable clue: their quiet, somewhat ill-tempered grandfather served in World War I and was said to have received money because he got “gassed.” What else could Matthew learn about this side of the family – a side that rarely mentioned its past?

Resource #1: 1919 military service record

Searching through military records at the National Archives in New York City, Matthew learns his grandfather was stationed in France and transferred to the medical department while there. But what did Joe do in the war?

Resource #2: Purple Heart citation and Distinguished Service Cross recommendation

On a French battlefield, Matthew learns more about his grandfather’s job in World War I – he tried to save people. Joe the postman was to go through the battlefields and attend to the wounded while waiting for the stretcher bearers and other medical personnel to arrive. Because of an injury sustained while performing his duties, Matthew’s grandfather was awarded a Purple Heart and recommended for a Distinguished Service Cross, neither of which Matthew nor his sister had known about.

Resource #3: 1910 U.S. Federal Census at Ancestry.com

Matthew decides to take a look at the family of Joe’s wife, Mary, as well. In the 1910 census, Mary is living in an orphanage, another fact of which Matthew and his sister were unaware. Orphanage records explain how Mary’s father, William, died in a work-related accident. Were there more stories about the family that this generation could uncover?

Resource #4: 1850 and 1870 U.S. Federal Census

Matthew continues his search for this side of the family through the census. In 1870, great-grandfather William is living in the same house with his mother and siblings. But where is William’s father? Searching the 1860 census turns up no trace of the family, but the 1850 census does. In that year, William is living at home with both his mother and his father, Robert. What happened between 1850 and 1870?

Resource #5: Civil War enlistment record

The 1860s raise a red flag: Civil War. Was Matthew’s great-great-grandfather involved? An index of individuals from Connecticut who served in the Civil War indicates that yes, Robert did serve in the Civil War, and enlistment records for Robert go a step further, giving a physical description of him and his date of enlistment. Civil War service records and muster rolls place Robert in the Battle of Gettysburg, but that wasn’t the end of the line.

Resource #6: Inventory of Effects from Final Statements

An Inventory of Effects offers the final details: Matthew’s great-great-grandfather died at the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

Why didn’t the “gassed” story steer the research off course?

Matthew mentions at the start of the show that it’s easy to lose family history connections when you don’t write them down. But you can also lose the true stories to faulty memory and recounting, which may have been what happened over the years as the tale of Matthew’s grandfather’s military service became progressively fuzzier.

It’s easy to get hung up on the small stuff, but if Matthew had limited his search to battles in which Germans employed chemical warfare in World War I, he may have never discovered the place where his own grandfather was injured. However, using the “gassed” story as a starting point did trigger Matthew’s search into military records and helped Matthew make a very important discovery: that his grandfather was more than Joe the postman – he was also an American military hero.

Check out www.ancestry.com/spreadtheword for materials you can use to tell others about the series.

TV: A Noah’s Ark of immigrants – more

A nation of immigrants looks at its ancestors – and its genealogy.

Ancestry and genealogy cut across all ethnic/religious lines. The process of discovery has meaning for all of us no matter our origins.

In for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rob Owen reports on a press conference for the new PBS’ Faces of America, hosted by Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. It premieres tonight (Wednesday, February 10) at 8pm ET. on PBS channels.

“I call it the Noah’s Ark approach,” Dr. Gates said of his new program during the PBS press conference. ” ‘African-American Lives’ was so popular, I got thousands of letters from people who weren’t black, saying, ‘What about me?’ Particularly Jewish people from Russia, with Russian roots, saying, ‘Why don’t you try to trace us?’… Russian, Jewish lineages are very, very hard to trace. People in Japan –very, very hard to trace. So I wanted to take that on.

“So, like Noah, I wanted two Muslims, two Jews, two Asians,” he said. “Yo-Yo Ma is a friend of mine, so I thought it would be intriguing to do him. I had always admired [Yamaguchi], and I thought it would be a great way to do it, to meet her. … We had one person, Tony Shalhoub had said yes. He was my other Arab person, and then his shooting schedule [conflicted]. He had to cancel it. So then, I asked Mehmet Oz, and he agreed right away.”

In the story on the show in the Los Angeles Times, Gates shares more of his concept:

When Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. started his latest genealogical project for PBS, which used historical archives and cutting-edge genetic research to trace the ancestry of a dozen famous Americans, he already had one hoped-for outcome in mind.

“I wanted to pick someone who is Jewish and someone who is Muslim and pray we get the same result in their DNA,” he said.

Sure enough, genetic testing revealed that director Mike Nichols, of Eastern European Jewish heritage, and surgeon and television host Mehmet Oz, the son of Turkish Muslim immigrants, had a common paternal ancestor thousands of years ago.”That is like affirming the story of Abraham,” Gates said delightedly.

Also, the New York Times reviewed the series, which looks at celebs Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, Queen Noor of Jordan, Mario Batali, Malcolm Gladwell, Elizabeth Alexander, Louise Erdrich, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Yo-Yo Ma, Stephen Colbert, Eva Longoria and Kristi Yamaguchi.

But that is perhaps fitting for the subject: watching this solemn, painstaking examination of immigrants’ roots is a little like trying to pry juicy family stories from an elderly aunt at Thanksgiving dinner: There are some tedious detours and false starts, but the unexpected details and touching sidebars are worth the effort.

Among the surprises: Gladwell learns that a Jamaican ancestor was a free colored woman who also owned slaves. Nichols learns he is indeed related to Albert Einstein. Yamaguchi learns about her nisei grandfather, a WWII war hero., the only Japanese-American in his unit. Alexander is a descendant of King John of England.

Ms. Longoria, who is Mexican-American, is not afraid to look at her pie chart and discover that while she is 70 percent European, she is also 27 percent Asian (and 3 percent African). When told that she has a genetic tie to Yo-Yo Ma, she jokes, “He’s Mexican?”

Queen Noor learns about her first-generation grandfather Najeeb, buried in Brooklyn, and she visits the grave for the first time.

Her ignorance about her own roots is as telling about the willful amnesia that clouds many immigrants’ assimilation process as anything else she reveals. But Mr. Gates doesn’t ask questions, he answers them.

I’m hoping the series will be shown in Israel. The site for the show indicates that the first full-length episode will be available online on Thursday, February 11, so see the show’s website for more.

One very good section is for educators, and includes detailed lesson and learning activity plans, optional activities, additional websites and relevant episode clips for specific lessons from the Video Segments Page.

Here’s some info on the lesson plans and links:

Grades 2-4: Exploring the Past: Lesson Overview
Hands-on, media-enhanced lesson challenges students to gather clues about the past through photographs, drawings and other primary source materials.

Grades 5-7: They’re Coming to America: Immigrants Past and Present: Lesson Overview
Students explore the history of America

Grades 7-9: A Cold Reception: Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in the United States: Lesson Overview
Students explore the hostile reception immigrants have often received from anti-immigrant “nativists.”

Grades 9-12: I Dream of Genome: Lesson Overview
Exploring types of genetic information in the human genome.

Read the newspaper articles at the link above.

Illinois: Family history Internet resources, Nov. 8

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois will host Harriet Rudnit on “Using World Wide Web Resources in Researching Your Family History,” on Sunday, November 8.

The program will cover use of various websites and the finer points of searching Google, Ancestry and JewishGen. It is geared to all levels of researchers.

Doors open at 12.30pm at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie for attendees to use the library or receive help from experts. The main program starts at 2pm.

For more information, click here.

New York: Dutchess County naturalizations, 1932-1989

New York’s Dutchess County has received an Ancestry.com grant to scan and digitize naturalization records, 1932-1989. Records of some 20,000 individuals will be included.

The grant doesn’t involve money; rather, ancestry.com will do the work to digitize original petitions for naturalization, signed oaths of allegiance and original photographs, according to the statement.

“I am very excited to see this worthy project become a reality,” Kendall said. “These records record the bravery and the determination of so many who left a world they knew to travel to America seeking a more prosperous life.”

The searchable database will be placed on Ancestry.com and available to the site’s subscribers.